Sunday, November 25, 2012

The curious case of the art fair model

For years I have been proselytizing about art galleries and art fairs and artists and art fairs. In a nutshell my gospel is simple: if you are a 21st century artist (or gallery) and you're not in Miami in December, then your business model is hopelessly bound to the meager crumbs of your local area and the random shot from your Internet website.

I know the costs are brutal, and that leaves a lot of galleries out of the equation in round one; but there are techniques and processes and approaches to diluting the "cost shock" - much like a cooperative gallery dilutes the huge odds against a gallery staying open more than a year by spreading out the costs amongst its members. In the last few years I have been hired by almost a dozen art centers, coop art galleries and even some commercial art galleries to advise them on how to approach the daunting task of "going to the fair" - to this date, ALL of them are returning to art fairs after their first, second or third fair -- All of them.

And that leads me to highlight that there is a most curious effect that I've been observing over the last few years.

In spite of the horrible economy, and in spite of the current administration's dated academic approaches to kick-starting the economy (and if it doesn't work, whatever it is, we blame Bush), and in spite of the threat of a financial doomsday with no happy ending no matter who wins (the who being the left wing or the right wing, with the rest of us caught in the middle)... in spite of all that... in my own empirical experience, and in talking to dozens of my fellow art dealers, it seems as though art fairs are doing OK.

Want empirical evidence Lenster?

Here locally, (e)merge has survived the most dire of predictions of the local art buying market and will return in 2013, stronger than ever. In Miami, this year there will be a record number of art fairs - even some of the top dogs (such as Art Miami) are so flooded with applicants that they've quietly started a second fair under a new name - all together there will be about 26 art fairs going on at once all over the Miami/Miami Beach region - 26!

The people who run Pulse also run the Affordable Art Fairs, and they're expanding to a bunch of new cities; DC was one of the cities on the draft list, and they came, explored, talked to a lot of people and decided that the DMV is not a viable market, but Seattle is.

But the biggest surprise of all (in my learned opinion) is the fact that a record number of DMV galleries and DMV area artists are heading south to the most Cuban of non-Cuban cities in the world next week to sell art and expose themselves to art!

If the mountain doesn't come to Mohamm ahhh... Monet, then Monet will come to the mountain.

We're heading to the Aqua Art Fair next week - if you want some free passes, drop me an email.